The city, the Schenectady City School District and Schenectady County will receive $395,000 in taxes over 10 years when the Schenectady Armory goes onto the tax rolls for the first time since it was built more than seven decades ago.
And that should be anytime now.
The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority negotiated the payment in lieu of taxes agreement with Legere Restorations, the Schenectady developer that bought the property from the state Office of General Services in July for $260,000 and plans to transform it into a sporting arena. They are expected to close on the property any day now, said Metroplex Executive Director Jayme Lahut.
“They’ve had many, many calls from groups that want to use the facility,” Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said at a board meeting Wednesday. “We think it’s going to create additional sales tax, and we said, ‘We want a fair agreement.’ It’s no secret that the tax jurisdictions are looking for more revenue. We’re very proud of what we’ve done with this PILOT.”
The Schenectady Armory, located at 125 Washington Ave., is a grand art deco brick structure built in 1936 with heavy oak doors and about 26,000 square feet of open space. The 21⁄2-story structure measures 65,000 square feet and is currently assessed at a value of $4.2 million.
Gillen said that based on the purchase price of the building, a typical PILOT agreement would have resulted in $106,000 in payments over 10 years. And while several state-facilitated appraisals put the building’s worth in the $300,000 range, the high costs of necessary renovations scared buyers away from the initial asking price of $395,000. But even at that price, said Gillen, it would have resulted in about $123,000 in payments over 10 years under a typical agreement.
“We appreciate the Legeres’ cooperation and good will extended to the community in making what will be a very substantial PILOT payment for this facility, which since it has been built has never paid taxes,” he said.
Cousins Jeff and Ray Legere of Legere Properties could not be reached Wednesday.
The pair beat out two other bidders at the July auction for the Armory, which has been vacant since the New York National Guard unit moved from that location to a new headquarters in Latham. The state had dropped its minimum asking price to $180,000 after receiving little interest from potential buyers last year.
Schenectady County Community College and the Museum of Innovation and Science (formerly the Schenectady Museum) both considered purchasing the building at one point but found it would be too expensive to renovate. One estimate put the cost of renovation — which would include a new roof, elevators, heating and cooling system, asbestos removal and handicap-accessibility improvements — as high as $10 million.
Legere Restorations has renovated and restored several local buildings, including the former Alco headquarters on Erie Boulevard that is now the Ellis School of Nursing and an old city firehouse on Wendell Avenue.
Plans for the building are still conceptual, said Gillen.
“It’s going to be a multimillion-dollar investment into that facility, though,” he said.
The vast floor space is perhaps the Armory’s biggest draw. At 26,000 square feet, it’s larger than the floor space at the Times Union Center and the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany. It’s also larger than the largest meeting room at the Empire State Plaza.
The Legeres plan to use the old armory to host sporting events like basketball, volleyball and lacrosse, as well as tournaments, functions and events. Throughout the rest of the building are locker rooms, training rooms and office space. The building could easily fit two full-length basketball courts or six full-size volleyball courts. SCCC used to practice and play home games there before relocating to the YMCA in Center City downtown.
“They’re very excited about this project,” said Gillen. “They see the opportunity here and that this could be a very interesting venue. And they’ve had dozens and dozens of calls from groups that need sporting venues.”
Work on the Armory will begin in 2013. Since the building is on the state and national historic registers, it will require a coordinated environmental review that will include approval by the city Planning Commission, among others. The first phase of the project will be to prepare the former drill space for use.